C. Wright Mills:
The spleen of [Thorstein] Veblen is due to the assumption, in his own words, that "the accumulation of wealth at the upper end of the pecuniary scale implies privation at the lower end of the scale." He tended always to assume that the pie was of a certain size, and that the wealthy class withdraws from the lower classes "as much as it may of the means of sustenance, and so reducing their consumption, and consequently their available energy, to such a point as to make them incapable of the effort required for the learning and adoption of new habits of thought." Again, the moral edge of the phrase, "conspicuous consumption" lies in the fact that it tends "to leave but a scanty subsistence minimum ... to absorb any surplus energy which may be available after the pure physical necessities of life ..." All this, strangely enough, was a sort of survival in Veblen's thought of classic economic conceptions of scarcity, and betrays a lack of confidence in technological abundance which we cannot now accept in the simple terms in which Veblen left it.Later Mills notes that Veblen's conception of the shamefulness of labour is belied by the fact that many in the upper class are industrious as anyone else in running about and doing things. That humans enjoy being busy is obvious enough, so the leisure class is not quite that (although labour-by-choice is different from mopping up a bathroom). It may have been difficult to imagine in those Fabulous Fifties, though, that some in the not-quite-leisure classes would be so intent on depriving others of that higher pie. It is not enough to have pleasure, others must have misery.
Veblen, thinking of the immigrant masses of his time and of the enormously unequal distribution of income and wealth, did not leave enough scope for the economic pie to expand - and what has happened, especially since the second World War, has meant that the majority of the U.S. population can consume conspicuously. In face, in the absence of "lower classes on a scanty subsistence," the term "conspicuous consumption" becomes a somewhat flat description of higher standards of living because the invidious element is lacking. Of course the aesthetics of Veblen's case remain applicable.
And here comes Michelle Malkin:
From New York to New Mexico and across the dependent plains, welfare recipients are getting sauced on the public dime. Drunk, besotted, bombed. But while politicians pay lip service to cutting government waste, fraud and abuse, they're doing very little in practice to stop the EBT party excesses. Where's the compassion for taxpayers?I guess if there ain't drinking there's still fighting and fucking, so the sacrifice must be made. Michelle Malkin is, unlike those welfare recipients, broke.
You see the signs everywhere: "We accept EBT." Fast-food restaurants do. Clothing retailers do. Auto repair shops, liquor stores and even sushi joints are joining the club. "EBT" stands for the federal government's electronic benefits transfer card, which is intended to provide poor people with food stamps and cash assistance for basic necessities. The two separate programs were combined into one ATM-like card designed to reduce the "stigma" attached to Nanny State dependency, and -- voila! -- an entirely new method of mooching was born.
Excuse-makers for the welfare-takers emphasize that both eligibility fraud and EBT card trafficking fraud are minuscule. But a bottle here, a case there, a pole dance here, a lap dance there, and soon it all starts to add up. With food stamp rolls exploding under both Republican and Democratic administrations while enforcement resources shrink nationwide, EBT has taken on a whole new meaning: Exploitation of Broke Taxpayers. Shame.